When I was told we would be working from home full time due to COVID-19 for the next couple of months, I was super excited. I had always felt that when I did manage to work from home for half a day or more a week, I was far more productive.
So the thought of working from home full time made me think my productivity was going to skyrocket!
After 2 months of having worked every single day from home with no physical meetings, I can confirm that productivity had at one point hit rock bottom!
Luckily I found ways to bring it back on track.
Here my three myths and takeaways from the last two months.
1. I can swap my commuting time for personal time
I very quickly found that I was actually working longer hours each day as opposed to when I was in the office. Research has also shown this to be the case.
I believe one of the main reasons this is happening, is because there are fewer boundaries. We don’t feel the same kind of pressure to be finished with work at a certain time of day, because we are simply already at home and don’t feel the need to leave the office at a certain time. This definitely got me trapped into working longer hours than needed.
And on top of that, I also found that in general people assume that because you are stuck at home and have nowhere else to go that you are free for yet another call. And by accepting these I was simply working longer hours, without a focus on productivity.
Commit to: a specific duration for virtual calls and being done at a specific time at the end of the day.
Also question whether you really need to join all those calls people are requesting you to join.
By doing this it will help you stay on track and hopefully bring the numbers of hours worked closer to those you had in the office, or even less!
2. I am still young and fit, so I don’t need to care about ergonomics
Another thing I didn’t factor into my productivity was my ergonomics when working at home. I am still in my early thirties and consider myself very fit with all my triathlon training, so I have always laughed at ergonomics...until working full time from home.
At the office I was used to walking around a lot and when I was sitting at my desk I had a good setup with a comfortable chair. The change to always sitting in front of my laptop at the dining room table at home was a bit of a shock to the system. I was quickly faced with the harsh realities of what poor ergonomics could do to you. (Even when you are fit and young)
Within a week or two, I started having headaches and struggled to focus on the screen for prolonged periods of time. Doing a bit of research and speaking to a doctor I quickly discovered the muscles in my neck had gotten super tight, which was causing the problems.
A proper set up with a screen at eye level, separate keyboard and mouse, as well as a pillow on my chair and regular neck stretches, helped me get rid of the headaches and problems focusing. It is definitely worth spending some time setting your home office up and making sure you get up every now and again to walk around.
3. I will master multitasking
While working from home the temptation was huge for me to multitask, especially during those longer virtual meetings, where you are on mute a lot of the time.
I would get worried that a couple of hours of the day would pass and they would be lost in terms of productivity, if I was purely focusing on the virtual meeting and not at the same time doing something else.
It seemed like the perfect idea to have a second screen and write some emails whilst listening to the virtual meeting.
But every time I tried, I ended up getting less done and feeling absolutely mentally exhausted, because I was constantly jumping between tasks. And often I also got caught out in the virtual meeting with a “Sean what do you think?...” “Ummm..”
Despite having good intentions of getting more done in a day, working on multiple things lead to less getting done.
Try and get into a habit of catching yourself from multitasking and refocus on only one task at a time. Also consider switching off as many notifications as possible, simply to avoid being distracted between tasks.
Finally by also managing those virtual meetings better, mentioned in my first point, you don’t end up feeling like you are “wasting” large chunks of your day in meetings. This also helps remove the pressure to multitask.
What is the perfect combo?
Based on my experience of working a full 2 months from home, I believe a healthy combination of working from the office and working from home is ideal. For me this would be 60% office/field and 40% at home.
At the end of the day we cannot underestimate the power of face to face interaction on our productivity and our happiness.
I hope that some of the solutions I mentioned here can be of use to any of you also struggling with productivity whilst working from home.